Joel Robuchon and Christian Constant

Joel Robuchon and Christian Constant

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From Henri 111 to Louis XV1, from the Duc de Joyeuse to the Compte d’Artois, all the great names in French history have left their mark at the various cross-roads of the bucolic Bois de Boulogne. The restaurant La Grande Cascade is located in a magnificent Second Empire pavilion, in the heart of the Bois opposite Longchamp racetrack. La Cascade was built for Napoleon III as a "leetle" hunting lodge and transformed into an elegant watering hole for the Great Exhibition of 1900. “At that time it was chic to go for a ride in the Bois to have one’s carriage admired”, explains Georges Menut, who, with his brother Bertrand keeps the Belle Epoque maison running like clockwork. Looking around the car-park (formerly the stables) you realise that is still the idea, only there’s lots more horse-power in the Ferraris, Porsches, and chauffeur driven limo/carriages these days.

The marvellous Menuts (third generation Grand Cascadeers) have kept every detail precise; the dining room sparkles with enough crystal chandeliers, original artwork, trompe l’oeil, precious china and ceiling paintings to make a visit to The Louvre seem positively de trop. This is one hell of a location for a summer lunch or dinner on the landscaped terrace, the music of the waterfall (cascade) tinkle, tinkling. Menut (Georges) explains that, in the Parisian restaurant business, the question owners ask is, “do we have to do fusion/chic cuisine to pack in the punters?” But for Menut  “The Grand Cascade has a style of its own, leaning towards the traditional harmonies which the chef interprets, call it "classic revisted"…”, Menut suggests. The chef Richard Mebkbout is a new talent who took over from the excellent Jean-Louis Nomicos, left to re-invent Lasserre, and by all accounts doing very well.

Mebkbout, from Lyon, was Nomicos’ second, having learned his craft chez Bocuse and Chapel. Intimidated? Never. From the beginning he’s shown a confident hand, his menu honours tradition without retreating into the cliché of regional or “cuisine de grandmere”, explores wide-ranging ingredients and techniques of global cooking without abandoning a sharp French sensibility. “There’s three major cuisines in the world: Chinese, Moroccan and French”, I overhear the colonel on the next table informing his guests. Not everybody will agree, but it’s nice to hear an intelligent gastro-debate taking place while elegant diners wait for, say, a signature dish of Macaroni farcis au fois gras, truffes noire et céleri reduction de vieux porto.

Look around and see what’s chic this season, the Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera look, a few safari jackets, lots of Dior saddlebags, important jewellery, Manolos. Businessmen, in Armani or Hugo Boss,Menu Degustation 150€ + A La Carte

Bistro Buzz:

It looks as if Joel Robuchon may have to change the name of his Atelier de JR which opened 7th May and which I’ll buzz next week. Seems that his old friend Alain Ducasse already patented the name; the case comes up soon. Watch this space! 5 rue Montalembert, 7th. Reservations taken one hour before your arrival! Valet parking. T: 01 42 22 56 56 — Expect to pay 54€ including wine.

They’ve all done them. Ducasse, Michel Rostang, Guy Savoy, Troigros, Charrial, Jean-Marie Amat, Albert Corré, and now let’s hear it for Christian Constant, who with Grégoire Bedot, has taken over a real old traditional bistro in Neuilly. “It’s not chic at all”, says Catherine Constant. Dishes include a charcuterie plate (so big that one is enough for two), homemade terrine, snails. Mains feature a magnificent cote de boeuf at 41€ (for 2), house salad, omelette (they say you can tell a good chef by the way he makes one). There’s a plat du jour (it is a bistro after all), fish of the day, steak au poivre and classic desserts such a petits pots de vanilla et café, tarte tatin, ile flottante and mousse de chocolat. “Don’t expect glamour, we’re still getting everything together”, says Mme Constant. But you will feel as if you are in the real France.

26 rue du Chateau,

T: 01 55 24 90 40.

Métro: Les Sablons – then leg it!

Open every day from 7.30 – midnight.

Finally…a study by the Roslin Institute and Edinburgh University, UK, has found that fish feel pain! Ouch!

Not — Gone fishing! See you next week.


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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !